The Pickwick Papers | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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The Pickwick Papers | Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

The next day the Pickwickians watch the maneuvers of the local Army units. Mr. Tupman disappears, but Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Winkle, and Pickwick are delighted with what they see—until they are almost attacked by the drilling soldiers. Mr. Tupman, meanwhile, has discovered an acquaintance: Mr. Wardle and his family.

Mr. Wardle met the Pickwickians in London some time ago. Mr. Wardle introduces the men to his two daughters and his sister and his friend, Mr. Trundle, who appears to be in love with one of the daughters. Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Winkle, and Pickwick join them in the carriage to watch the rest of the military maneuvers. The three women are frightened by the sound of the guns, and Mr. Trundle and Mr. Snodgrass comfort the two daughters, while Mr. Tupman consoles their aunt, Mr. Wardle's sister. They dine together, and Mr. Tupman seems to be making some progress at flirting with Mr. Wardle's sister Rachael. Mr. Pickwick, on the other hand, is fascinated by the Wardle's servant, Joe, who falls asleep at a moment's notice. Mr. Wardle invites the Pickwickians to stay with them at Manor Farm, Dingley Dell. They agree to visit him the next day and stay for at least a week.

Analysis

The mishaps during the field day provide broad, almost slapstick humor as the Pickwickians literally find themselves under fire. This is another illustration of how ill equipped they are to deal with reality: they go to cheer on the military and find themselves under attack.

Throughout The Pickwick Papers, Dickens follows a pattern: put the Pickwickians into a difficult situation, and then bring them through into a happy, party-like atmosphere. The Wardles often play a role in the happy parties. All the Wardles are warm, friendly, and generous, and the women (except old Mrs. Wardle) are attractive and willing to flirt a bit. In less than a page, Dickens has paired off many of the gentlemen: Mr. Snodgrass and the Wardles' friend Mr. Trundle have the two daughters, while Mr. Tupman offers manly comfort to Miss Wardle, Mr. Wardle's unmarried sister.

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